23rd March 1944, midday
Charm of the Rhineland—And of other parts of Germany—The marvellous countryside of Bohemia and Moravia.
I saw the Rhine for the first time in 1914, when I was on my way to the Western Front. The feelings which the sight of this historic stream inspired in me remain forever graven on my heart. The kindness and spontaneity of the Rhinelanders also made a profound impression on me; everywhere they received us and feted us in a most touching manner. The evening we reached Aachen, I remember thinking that I should never forget that day for the rest of my life; and indeed the memory of it remains today as vivid as ever, and every time I find myself on the banks of the Rhine I re-live again the wondrous experience of my first sight of it. This is no doubt one of the main reasons—quite apart from the unrivalled beauty of the countryside—that impels me each year to revisit the Rhineland.
There are other parts of Germany, apart from the Rhineland, which give me intense pleasure to visit—the Kyffhaeuser, the forests of Thuringia, the Harz and the Black Forest. It is most exhilarating to drive for miles through the woods and forests, far away from the throng.
One of my greatest delights has always been to picnic quietly somewhere on the roadside; it was not always easy, for our column of cars would often be pursued by a crowd of motorists, eager to see their Fuehrer off duty, and we had to employ all sorts of ruses to shake off these friendly and well-meaning pursuers; sometimes, for instance, I would drive up a side-turning, leaving the column to continue along the main road. Our pursuers would then overtake the cars of the column one by one, and, failing to find me, would go ever faster in the hope of overtaking me farther on. In this way we managed occasionally to snatch a few hours of peace and tranquillity.
On one occasion, I remember, a family out gathering mushrooms came suddenly on our picnic party. In a few moments these kindly folk had alerted the neighbouring village and the whole population was surging towards us, filling the air with their shouts of “Heil.”
It is a great pity that Germans know so little of their own country. Since 1938 the number of beauty spots within the boundaries of the Reich has increased considerably. In addition to Austria, we have the wonderful countryside of Bohemia and Moravia, which is a closed book to all but a few Germans.
Some of them may have heard of the virgin forests of Bohemia, but how many have ever seen them? I have a collection of photographs taken in Bohemia, and they remind one of the vast forests of the tropics. To visit all the beauties of his country, a German today would require taking a holiday in a different district each year for the rest of his life.
Consider obtaining a copy of the complete notes
published by Ostara Publications.